Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Monday, May 24, 2010

So, The Sky Isn't Falling?

My friend Adam checked in again this morning with the state of the AL East. Interesting reading.

The Sox are now 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, with 117 games left to play. I don't know how they can possibly make up that deficit ...

While I don't think Tampa Bay as a team is as good as their record says they are, almost two months of .700+ baseball makes them hard to catch. They'd have to collapse to miss the playoffs. If they play .500 ball for their remaining 118 games, they'd finish with 91 wins.

Most Sox fans don't take Toronto seriously. The Sox have played them well this year, winning 5 of the 6 head-to-head games. Still, the Jays have been hot. They won 15 of 21, before dropping 2 of 3 in interleague play this weekend. Toronto has hit the most HR in the AL. Still, I don't really buy their offense. They have a .312 OBP as a team. They are a feast or famine offense; they don't get on base consistently but have players who have hit for power so far. Most of their player OPS is skewed by high SLG. For example, does anyone think Edwin Encarnacion will finish with anything close to the .745 SLG he has right now? I'm also not sure they have enough starting pitching behind Marcum and Romero to stay in the race past June/July.

That brings us to the "hot" MFY. Actually, the MFY are the coldest team in the division. They got off to a great start, winning 11 of their first 14 games. Since then, they've been 15-15. In other words, they've been a mediocre team for two-thirds of this season. The MFY have lost 10 of their last 15. Horse Face (Teixeira .702 OPS) and Jeter (.698 OPS) have flat-out sucked. Future HOFer and batting champ Robinson Cano hasn't hit well in May.

CC Sabathia has struggled lately. He has allowed 10 HR in his last 7 starts. Sabathia has never allowed more than 20 HR in a season. He is on pace for 30+ HR right now. Hughes is a very good pitcher, who over-performed early. He is only 23-years old, and the MFY will monitor his work load. Pettitte looks like he's coming down to Earth. He has massively over-performed his FIP. And, while his traditional numbers look good right now, his secondary numbers look a lot like John Lackey's. New York also has some bullpen issues.

The MFY have had some injuries. They miss Posada's bat, just like they missed Swisher's bat when he was out. Granderson and Johnson didn't hit well before they were hurt. The MFY are an old team. They are going to have injuries. Last year, they over-performed because their old players stayed healthy and played at a higher level than they should have. Those same players look like they'll perform in a more typical fashion this year. The MFY need A-Rod, Teixeira, Cano, and Swisher to have big years--and they need their starters to perform like they did in April--or they may be in trouble. The MFY look very beatable to me. Of course, they'll go through stretches were they play better than they have recently. They're a good team. Also, they have the resources to add players. But, I don't see them as anything close to a playoff lock.

The Sox still have holes. They desperately need bullpen arms. But the pen should improve if the starters continue to go deep in games. I still don't like the bench. Mike Lowell is a wasted roster spot (I wonder if Theo is holding onto Lowell to keep him away from the MFY). Once Mike Cameron comes back, this will be a very solid team, offensively and defensively. For all the criticism Theo has taken, Beltre and Scutaro have been as advertised. Both have been significant upgrades over last year. It's too soon to tell about Cameron. His injury isn't age-related, though. Only Lackey has been a disappointment--a huge disappointment--and, by far, the Sox' worst starter. He has had major control issues and his K-rate and SwStr% are way down this year. But if Beckett is healthy, the Sox should have enough starting pitching to make a run. They easily have enough offense. Their defense on balls in play, aside from Hermida and McDonald (who won't be playing when Cameron comes back), is very good.

The only real question mark on this team is the pen. While they have been overworked, they look like they lack quality. Hopefully, Theo will acquire an arm or two. In 2003, the Sox began the season with a weak pen. Theo made three big bullpen acquisitions that helped the Sox make the playoffs: Byung-Hyun Kim (who was huge in the regular season), Scott Williamson, and Todd Jones. In fact, by the end of the season Boston's pen was very good. Everyone seemed to know it but Grady. Let's hope Theo can duplicate 2003 and find bullpen help during the season.

The Sox have played .591 ball in May (22 games). After starting the season 6-9 (.400 WP), they are 18-12 (.600 WP) in their last 30 games. For two-thirds of the season so far, they have played like the team they're supposed to be. They have played through adversity and injuries already. Despite what fans and some in the media think, the Sox are not done. These next three games are big. But they're not "make or break" games. I expect Boston to be in it all year. Things always seem to turn around for a team when CHB declares them dead. This should be fun.

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